The Debate on Campus Carry
Campus Carry Problem
The increase in the number of shootings in the United States in the recent past has led to the legislation of several laws in an attempt to reduce these incidences. One of the laws, campus carry, is applicable in the state of Texas where an individual is allowed to possess a gun in the institutions of learning under specific conditions. Most of the attacks and shootings occur in schools and are mostly done with the use of licensed guns and this has had a greater implication for the ownership of guns in relation to security within these institutions. This has led to tough debates since ownership of guns is provided for by the constitution even though it poses a threat to the safety of the public apart from having an impact on the economy of the country. As such, the current paper analyzes the major issues and viewpoints that are proposed by the campus carry while relating them to various disciplines. The paper also investigates various perceptions of the existing literature which analyzes the same law to provide an extensive research on the topic.
Shootings that have occurred in campuses, specifically at Virginia Tech, have escalated the debate on how to handle guns in campuses. Apart from the federal laws, states have come up with policies which have allowed the possession of guns in campuses (Birnbaum). But there are some states that have completely banned guns in schools with others giving the authority to the institutions to make a decision on the ownership of guns within their premises (Bouffard, Nobles, & Wells). Birnbaum reports that close to 200 public institutions in six states have allowed the possession of guns by students while in campus. Texas narrowly passed the campus carry bill in June 2015 and another bill that allowed the residents of Texas to have their handguns in open view. These two bills which have since been effective give the students and faculty a right to carry handguns to the campuses.
The campus carry law limits the gun holders to several facilities within the institution including laboratories and sport grounds. With an unprecedented increase in the number of shootings that have been witnessed in most institutions of learning across the United States, the law proponents believe that if a student is armed, they are at a better position to stop such incidents from occurring even though the opponents of the law believe it is a recipe for greater violence (Bartula & Bowen). It is important that the law is well understood for its effective implementation, which would ensure that the purpose of its legislation is met. Therefore it is important that the perceptions of those who are directly affected are taken into account, especially those who will be tasked with the implementation and development of procedures in response to any fatal incidents.
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The complex interdisciplinary problem is that there is no single discipline that is able to come up with a solution to the problem of gun rights within the premises of institutions of learning and their impacts on the campus community. Campus carry legislation is quite a debatable topic with the proposers and opponents all having arguable points of views. Therefore, students should be well informed and knowledgeable about the law as it has a direct impact on their welfare and security when they are in school (Bartula & Bowen). With the law being effective, it is important that its long term implications are considered in detail since allowing guns in the institutions of learning poses a critical question in relation to its management in the cases when they are misused. The safety and security of students within the institutions of learning is brought under a lot of scrutiny due to the introduction of the campus carry law with most scholars arguing that the government is not taking their responsibility of ensuring public protection by the regulations being weakened and giving more responsibilities to individuals. The lack of the presence of government regulations leads to the emergence corporations with interest, and it is imperative to note that with the increase in the sales of guns, there might be unpredictable implications and effects.
Every piece of legislation must have both sides of the coin and so does the campus carry law. The proponents of the law believe that having guns in campuses can lead to the increased security as students would be able to react to any threat that poses any form of danger to their lives especially with the increased cases of shootings that have been witnessed mostly in schools. The foundation of campus carry was based on the uncertainty that surrounds the security of students and therefore its main aim was to give the responsibility of protection to the students themselves by giving them the power to defend themselves in case of any attack (Bartula & Bowen). But allowing concealed guns in schools can also increase the risks of accidental shootings, something which has been witnessed in several schools including the University of Denver and Idaho State University. Despite the risks that are posed by allowing guns in school, most states have started presenting bills for the implementation of campus carry and most of these bills have either been passed and enacted or have chances of being passed.
With the legislation of campus carry having more implications for the security of the students, it is important to evaluate various arguments which are proposed by the opponents and proponents of the policy. The viewpoints of various stakeholders are important in ensuring that the correct policy is instituted in schools to provide a more secure learning environment (Dahl, Bonham, Jr., & Reddington). The study will therefore apply an interdisciplinary approach by looking at the various disciplines which have conducted a research on the policy so as to come up with a holistic and accurate suggestion on the perfect means of reducing violence in schools and improving security. The subsequent literature review represents an examination of the literature that revolves around campus carry as well as the legislation that has been adopted in Texas, which would experience massive impact and changes to the policies on guns in the institutions of learning. But first, it is important to discuss the debate that the nation is faced with concerning the ownership of guns.
Gun and Anti-Gun Cultures
Ownership of guns has escalated to a huge debate in the United States with two opposing and competing cultures both arguing for the implementation of their ideas. There are those who are inclined to the gun culture and those who are against the gun culture. Winkler reports that there are close to 300 million guns that are owned by the public in the United States even though studies have established that the ownership of guns is challenging. The conclusions on ownership and efficacy of guns have not been definite with various studies providing mixed and opposing conclusions and recommendations. A study by Lott and Mustard (1997) reported that the ownership of guns by civilians reduces the rates of criminal activities and violent acts while another study by Ayres and Donohue III opposed this finding on the basis of limited conclusions and further suggested that the ownership of guns can increase the rates of violent crimes.
According to the Pew Research Center, more people are becoming supportive of having guns rather than having control over them. The study by the center reported that slightly over 50% of individuals believe that it is more important that the ownership rights of guns are protected while close to 45% of individuals believe that controlling of guns is more important than protecting gun rights. But there is also a racial pattern regarding the view of gun ownership with most blacks being of the opinion that the ownership of guns is more effective in the protection of lives than posing security risks. But a large number of the blacks also believe that it is critical to control the ownership of guns in comparison with the prioritization of gun rights (Pew Research Center). The views of whites on the ownership of guns have also changed dramatically with a large number being of the opinion that guns are important for the protection even though most of them propose gun rights rather than gun control.
Campus Carry Perceptions and Implications
Utah became the first state in the United States to allow students to possess handguns in institutions of learning but not through the legislative process but rather from a judicial perspective (Bennett, Kraft, & Grubb). The Supreme Court of the state of Utah had ruled that the institutions had no authority to ban guns within the premises but the debate on the possession of guns in schools escalated when a student shot and killed 32 other students and faculty at Virginia Tech (Patten, Thomas, & Wada). Exactly a year after the shooting at Virginia Tech, a similar incident occurred at the University of Northern Illinois where six individuals were killed. It was at this point that it became apparent that gun ownership in schools warranted legislative efforts so as to change the policies that did not allow concealed guns in the institutions of learning (Bennett). Since the shootings occurred, most states have made legislative efforts to enact laws similar to that in the state of Utah which permitted students and the faculty to have licenses to carry guns in schools (Bennett). By 2013, 19 states had implemented the campus carry legislation. But most of these initiatives to allow guns in schools either received a lot of resistance or even failed at specific stages of the legislation.
In relation to crimes committed in campuses, there is a requirement by the Clery act which stipulates that institutions have to compile a report on violence and crime that occur within the institutions. According to most of these reports, the chances of crime to occur in the institutions of learning are fewer than among the public population. According to Birnbaum, after the analysis of the 2010 reports on Clery act, it is less likely that a homicide will take place in a college campus with the chances being very low. In addition, deadly violence in campuses occurs very rarely. Other government entities including the secret service and federal bureau of investigation have also investigated violence in campuses for the previous two decades and found out that guns were only used in half of the incidences reported. In most cases, the victim of gun shootings was familiar to the perpetrator with the attacks on strangers being very rare (Patten; Sulkowski & Lazarus).
The perceptions of campus carry have been varied as a result of the various interests in legislation that it has had over time. According to a study conducted by Hemenway, Azrael, and Miller , 94% of respondents believed that students should not be allowed to carry guns in the institutions of learning. Another study on the control of guns by Payne and Reidel found out that students had varied attitudes in relation to the control of guns on the basis of what they study in college. Students who study criminal justice did not have a significant support for the control of guns. In terms of demographics, white males from rural areas also did not support gun control (Payne and Reidel).
Another study by Bouffard, also investigated whether there is a correlation between a college major and the desire of a student to carry a gun to the campus. There was positive response to the survey by the students who majored in criminal justice as compared to those who did not major in criminal justice. But most of the respondents also reported that they had no interest in getting a license for a concealed gun or even having a concealed gun in the campus. But students who majored in criminal justice were more likely to have an interest in having the license as well as carrying a concealed handgun while in school (Bouffard).
As debate over the legislation of campus carry was taking place in Georgia, Bennett conducted a survey on 145 faculty members at one of the universities within the state in relation to the law. The study reports that slightly over 70% of the respondents opposed the law of having guns in the school. But a further analysis revealed that the attitude of the faculty to the ownership of guns was determined by the political party with republicans being more likely to support the campus carry. Another survey by Patten conducted at Chadron College and Chico state found out that 73% of the respondents were opposed to having guns in campus with close to 70% reporting that they were not secure with handguns on campus. Most female respondents were opposed to having concealed guns on campus with conservatives being more likely to support the law as opposed to the liberal respondents. But most of the conservatives did not agree that having concealed guns by private citizens in campus was a good idea even though they largely supported campus carry (Patten). Therefore, according to the findings of these studies, most of the respondents are opposed to the idea of having concealed guns within the premises of campuses but despite these revelations, campus carry is still a debatable topic that has been pushed by most states with Texas being at the forefront for the legalization of guns in campuses.
Campus Carry and Rational Choice Theory
The relationship between campus carry and violence in campuses proves to be more complicated thorough an interdisciplinary analysis. Just like any other control policy of guns, carry campus can be seen as having an effect on crime by controlling the availability of guns (Dahl). But several interdisciplinary studies have asserted that the legislation on gun control is also not related to the availability of guns. These studies make assumptions that the control of guns only has an effect on the population meaning criminals, but at the basic level, the effect of campus carry on criminals can be described through the theory of rational choice (Sims Blackwell & Payne). The theory is a further exploration of the expected utility concept in the economic theory.
According to the principle of expected utility, an individual can make decisions that are based on their expectations concerning the maximization of profits while minimizing losses or operational costs. As such, campus carry can have several effects. For instance, waiting time for a license for a concealed handgun increases the cost of time and therefore bars an individual from applying for it or purchasing a gun at all (Sulkowski & Lazarus). On the same note, the time for waiting for the license or purchasing of the gun may also block out those who have had some records of crime but are seeking to legally acquire a gun. This has an increasing effect on the difficulty of finding a criminal as well as the cost of acquiring the gun. Secondly, the licenses on concealed handguns can also bar students who were offenders due to the background checks that are conducted which would lead to the possibility of purchasing illegal guns at unauthorized markets. In addition, the registration of the handguns and records of sale being verified by the police also extends the procedure of purchasing the gun (Hemenway). These are the factors that increase the amount of energy and time that the potential handgun owners have to undergo to get their gun with a lot of uncertainty in the investigations by the police.
In essence, the rules of obtaining a handgun according to the theory of rational choice increase the costs and time which are invested in purchasing guns. It becomes more costly with the purchase of permits, waiting time and even the background checks by the authorities (Sims Blackwell & Payne). But as much as campus carry law is argued to increase the costs of purchasing the gun, the reasoning is that individuals will still apply for the guns license and that these factors will not have a huge impact on the use of the concealed handguns or even the rates at which they are used to commit crimes (Winkler). The theory of rational choice hypothesizes that there can be a different approach in the expected utility of a gun’s user which leads to various perceptions in regard to the laws related to the use of guns such as campus carry. This can explain why there are different perceptions and viewpoints of people on the laws that are stipulated by campus carry.
It is important to note that the proponents of campus carry believe that it can reduce incidents of insecurities in campuses. This is based on the reasoning that a student armed with a handgun will prevent any incident that threatens their security or that of other students. But it should be taken into account that most of the assaulters who use handguns do not plan to fight and such incidences occur because of conflicts which happen spontaneously. With campus carry being aimed at increasing the costs of guns possession through the various background checks, it can possibly reduce the assaults which are gun related as well as the level of injury which can happen as a result of the same (Sims Blackwell & Payne). There are also a lot of complications in relation to the impact of campus carry on homicides even though the incidences have been minimal. A student who owns a handgun is less likely to fear their victim which would lead to more deadly consequences in case of altercation. As such, only in special circumstances the law increases the chances of committing homicide crimes even though the law is only focused on giving the guns to people who are qualified to have them.
The aim of this research was to explore and assess the various perceptions and literature resources regarding campus carry in Texas and other states which have introduced a similar law. As much as there is an extensive media attention and debate on the control of guns, there is no extensive empirical research that has been conducted regarding the law of campus carry in the institutions of learning. With the current study only having done an investigative analysis of the past literature, it is evident that there are a lot of strong perceptions against the legislation. According to the paper, most individuals who have been interviewed on the issue have reported very strong opinions regarding the law and are mostly opposed to its implementation as much as the legislators seem to ignore these concerns.
Even though the current research is exploratory, it is quite informative since it exposes the limitations in the literature that has been written on campus carry as well as the scarcity of studies that are related to the perceptions of individuals regarding the legislation. In addition, it is important to consider a viewpoint of the individuals who are directly affected by campus carry including the students and faculty as well as the officials who will be implementing the legislation. Lastly, as the study has determined, there is a strong opposition to campus carry in Texas and this gives room for the expression of divergent and differing views among the legislators and people who are directly affected by the legislation.